Blog: Snozberry's Farm
by Snozberry

Demised Health Gurus-- Dead Gurus Don't Lie

Dead Health Gurus and failed health promises

Date:   2/20/2006 5:24:47 AM   ( 15 y ) ... viewed 5457 times

Reprinted from

It might be wise to kick off this column on health with a cautionary tale.

Dr Paavo Airola was once the best-known health expert in the United States.
His books were international best-sellers. In 1983 Dr Airola offered to
publish a health book I had written in the US.

We corresponded to this end for some time. But then he stopped writing.
Weeks went by, then months. Eventually I assumed that Dr Airola had got
cold feet.

Little did I realise how cold. Ultimately a letter arrived from his office.

America's most acclaimed longevity specialist - author of How To Get Well
and How to Keep Slim, Healthy and Young With Juice Fasting - had died of a
stroke at 64. This was more than a decade short of 74.5, the average age of
male mortality.

Paavo Airola had opened the batting for an epidemic of premature death
among longevity experts.

Next cab off the rank, in 1985, was Nathan Pritikin - who suicided as
leukemia overtook him, at 69. Australian health writer Ross Horne, a friend
of Pritikin's, says he would have lived years longer had he only embraced
'Man's natural diet', fruitarianism.

T.C. Fry - leader of the Natural Hygiene movement in the US - did exactly
this, when ill-health hit him in his late sixties. He even died a
fruitarian: at the age of 70, of a pulmonary embolism.

Longevity experts seem to expire earlier than everyone except rock stars -
who leave us, according to a recent US survey, on average at 36.9 years.

But rock stars can have dangerous lifestyles. (Of the 317 surveyed, 40 died
of drug overdose, 36 suicided, 22 died in plane accidents, and 18 were
murdered.) Longevity experts should have no such excuse.

So how to explain this epidemic? Was exercise the missing ingredient?
Probably not: most of these people at least walked a lot. Paavo Airola was
a jogger.

So, too, was Jim Fixx. Indeed Fixx founded the jogging cult in the USA,
with his 1977 Complete Book of Running . One chapter is a scorching
repudiation of a Playboy article titled Jogging Can Kill You .

In 1984 Jim Fixx was felled by a heart attack as he jogged through the
streets near his home. He was 52.

Should Fixx have read up on the world famous brothers, Drs William and Evan
Shute, who proclaimed that heart disease could be prevented with Vitamin E?

Maybe not. In 1981, whilst continuing to lecture on the prevention of heart
disease with Vitamin E, Dr William Shute developed heart disease, and died
after a bypass operation. Dr Evan Shute pre-deceased him by a short period.

The author JI Rodale - founder of Prevention magazine - had a more
comprehensive answer to the problem of heart disease, and other illnesses.
He preached a spectrum of minerals and vitamins, and an organic diet. I
asked American raw food writer Bob Avery how Rodale's story ended:

"He died of a heart attack during taping of the Dick Cavett TV talk show,
shortly after he had completed his interview. He was 72. During the
interview he stated his intention to live to 100. The talk show host
thought he had dozed off in his chair."

George Ohsawa, inventor of Macrobiotics ("the way of long life") had a more
comprehensive approach still: embodying spiritual as well as nutritional
values. He expired of lung cancer at 73.

Adelle Davis sold ten million copies of 'Let's Eat Right' and a string of
other best-sellers through the 1960s and 1970s. Davis came from the 'high
protein' generation which preceded today's high carbohydrate orthodoxy. She
used to say she had never seen anyone die of cancer who drank a quart of
milk a day, as she did.

Adelle Davis died of cancer in 1974, aged 70. The average age of female
mortality is 81.

A serious high protein aficionado was author Vilhjalmur Stephansson, who
ate an all-meat diet. He developed serious cardiovascular disease.
Britain's Sir Francis Chichester, lone sailor and fitness book author, died
of spinal cancer in 1972, aged 70. American health author Dr Stuart Berger,
who advocated vitamins, minerals and exercise, died of a heart attack at 40.

A few longevity experts did live long lives. (Paul Bragg, 95. Dr Norman
Walker, 108-117, depending on whom you believe.) But most did not even make
the average for their gender - let alone the ton. And most made large
amounts of money from telling us how to prolong our lives.

So what killed them? Perhaps the high-carbohydrate diet helped despatch
some. (As we shall see next week, this orthodoxy is now coming into
question.) Others, like Paavo Airola, had health traumas early in life. But
that's not an excuse for the pattern. (The SAD eaters whose deaths make up
the averages were exposed to a comparable range of stresses.)

And there were, of course, those who just did not follow their own rules.

I asked veteran American health writer Ric Lambart about Adelle Davis:

"She simply led a very self-destructive life. She did some of the very same
things she urged others not to do: smoke and drink... In fact, when I first
met her, it was Paavo who introduced us, and he had to locate her in a busy
hotel - so he went right to the bar, where she was engaged nurturing a
drink that was clearly not some sort of fruit drink."

Ric also had something to say about that least considered factor
contributing to early death: chronic stress. Herbert Shelton - the first
doyen (before TC Fry) of the Natural Hygiene movement in the US - was
perennially hounded by the medical establishment. Shelton

"...never got out from behind the "eight ball," stress-wise... He was
constantly overworked and engaged in extreme legal warfare. The medical
establishment over here did all they could at every turn to put him out of
business and in prison."

But there was also the fact that Shelton "apparently did not consume a
natural diet himself."

Ric Lambart also knew TC Fry:

"Terry Fry...was under unrelenting stress and never got out of one legal
battle or confrontation before he was engaged in a new one. He spread much
good information, though, so should be considered as one of those who
contributed some good gospel to the Alternative Health field. He burned his
candle at both ends, so, almost predictably, passed away prematurely."

Most of the above pundits condemned 'crackpot' and 'fad' diets (that is,
diets other than their own). To be fair, some of them undoubtedly
contributed a piece or two to the slow-forming jigsaw of health. (Even
getting people to think about nutrition in the 1950s and 1960s was an

Collectively, however, their premature exits cast a humbling shadow over
our present certainties. Are dietary principles as transient as those of
(say) political correctness?

Perhaps these mournful departures should make us more modest in our
assessment of our own understanding. And less fevered in our judgement of
those who differ from us.

In the coming weeks we'll look at a range of exciting new ideas in health.
Hopefully they will give you some 'Eureka moments', as they did me.

But it would be good to remember that no-one has a monopoly on knowledge.
Many who have have thought themselves to be on the one true path have found
out otherwise in their final hours."

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